California

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Morons Against Drunk Driving

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Memo to California: STOP BEING TENNESSEE.

My very first thought, when I heard about the Oceanside, CA high school that played an elaborate prank on its student body, ostensibly to teach them a lesson about dangerous life choices, I immediately thought of beautiful, downtown Murfreesboro, TN, where they staged that fake school shooting for the sixth graders last year.

Now, California didn't stage a fake school shooting. I'm led to understand that, on account of the state containing nothing but liberal hippie freaks, nobody in the entire state even has a fake gun they could use. No, in California, they focused their attention on a much more prolific killer than the armed, disaffected teen: the wheeled, intoxicated teen.

Another big difference between Murfreesboro, which I admit I like typing because it's a ridiculous name for a town, and Oceanside is that while the Tennessee case was more of a prank gone horribly wrong, Oceanside's GOAL was to shock, horrify, and traumatize the student body. Which they did by coming into class one day and telling everyone that twenty six students had died the night before in drunken driving accidents.

Now, I presume they didn't tell everyone that all the students died at the same time. That would strain credulity, even amongst a group of people who believe "The Hills" is compelling television. No, they went to various classes, and told each class that one or two of their mysteriously absent classmates had in fact performed the alcoholic windshield dive into the Great Beyond.

The plan was to let the students stew for most of the day, then reveal at an assembly the joyous truth that none of their friends had died because they were all too smart to drive drunk. And then everyone would laugh, like at the end of all those half-hour documentaries from the 80s. You know, "Diff'rent Strokes" and "Charles In Charge". This plan was derailed when, in a reaction nobody could have possibly predicted, a whole bunch of normally completely rational teenagers, upon learning of the deaths of their friends, completely lost their shit.

So some of the kids were told early, and the word of the hoax spread, and then came the recriminations and the defensiveness. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"They were traumatized, but we wanted them to be traumatized. That's how they get the message." - Guidance counselor and bad-idea ringleader Lori Tauber. Yes, they got the message. They got the message that you cannot be trusted, and that you're willing to manipulate them to get your point across. Which, surprise surprise, then proceeds to undermine every single other message, valid or otherwise, that you've tried to impart to them over the past few years. Good job.

Luckily, some of the students, being human, American, and young, didn't actually follow through on that message because they're not very bright. Case in point, Cardie Magos, for whom I will cut some slack because she's only fifteen, but who happens to be in possession of one of the single most vile beliefs of our modern times:

"You feel betrayed by your teachers and administrators, these people you trust. But then I felt selfish for feeling that way, because, I mean, if it saves one life, it's worth it."

No, it's not. The potential savings of one life is not of infinite value. But that hasn't stopped it from justifying all kinds of ridiculous shit, from high school panic hoaxes to abortion clinic protests to the Iraq war. Yet the "if it saves just one life" trope persists and grows, to the extent that a fifteen-year-old girl feels bad that she's outraged by the abuse of power from those in authority. Fucking awesome.

And that all assumes that this "scared straight" approach even works. Teens have been losing friends and family members to drunk driving since Henry Ford put the first cup-holder in the Model T. Yet strangely, that hasn't stopped legions of Bud-addled football captains from thinking they could make it home OK. Are these kids really going to call their parents for a ride after a night of illegal drinking, or think to bring that kid from the math team along as a designated driver, because for half an hour they thought their buddies were road pizza?

I have, as you may guess, my doubts.

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